Understanding the rules of the game in any country is a challenge. And no amount of management education in a lecture theatre can prepare all future managers to set up a factory in China or deal with a union dispute in Ghana. So, many institutes now take students on trips to learn about different economies and cultures firsthand. A group from Oxford was on one such tour in India recently.
“Dealing with a multitude of stakeholders and understanding which ones matter the most, and at which times, is a vital part of an EMBA programme,” informs Kathy Harvey, director, Oxford executive MBA programme, Said Business School, who was in Bangalore with a colleague and 78 students of 33 nationalities for their technology and operations module. “Some of this might happen in the lecture theatre, but other elements of teaching happen in small groups,” says Harvey, adding, “that if one wants to be a corporate diplomat, one needs to be able to assess political and financial risk, and judge situations which might have huge consequences.”
This is possible through case studies and small group work where students are encouraged to take those risks in a safe environment, shares David Upton, the professor who delivered the module and has written a number of case studies on Indian firms. “Visiting India allows the students a more experiential way of learning, a chance to ask questions of the characters who appear in the case studies, and a chance to question their strategy during the organisational visit,” he explains.
Cultural immersion has to be approached from a humble and practical standpoint by trying to understand individual firms and their challenges, says Harvey. The group visited Wipro, Infosys, Kingfisher, Akshaya Patra and RuralShores. “We try to understand how they are globalising their operations and encourage the group to ask how they see the competition outside India. We also introduce them, through guest speakers, to the political and regulatory environment of the Indian economy though, of course, we can only scratch the surface. Senior executives need to be corporate diplomats for their firm, resilient in new situations and flexible, and they need to assess risks in different markets. By coming to Bangalore we are trying to help them do this,” she shares.
For Bangalore-based Hareesh M Totiger, coming back to the city with his class gave him the opportunity to see his country and the IT industry in a new light. “Apart from the impressive infrastructure, it is humbling to learn how senior leaders from the IT industry are ploughing returns back for the betterment of the community.” Visiting the social enterprise Rural-Shores especially left a huge impression on all his classmates. “The company is helping unemployed youth from the countryside, who don’t wish to migrate to the cities, to find local jobs.”
There is also another reason for choosing India. “India is one of the most intriguing and fast-growing economies in the world and many of our students will buy or sell with Indian firms, or work with them as consultants. It is really important to give them a chance to understand, even if only partially, the complexity of the Indian business environment,” shares Harvey.
Date: Apr 7, 2014